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Remembering Leslie W. Dunbar

Thursday, January 5th, 2017 by Brian Seidman

Leslie DunbarWriter, professor, and civil-rights activist Dr. Leslie W. Dunbar died January 4, 2017 in New Orleans, three weeks from his 96th birthday.

In the turmoil of the 1960s, Dunbar worked with the Southern Regional Council, helping — among other initiatives — to create the Voter Education Project; the project is credited with registering two million African American voters. Later that decade Dunbar directed the Field Foundation, dedicated to child welfare and civil rights, including funding Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign and the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dunbar also taught political science at a number of colleges and universities, and worked with the Ford Foundation. Even after “retirement,” he continued to be active in political and social justice causes. He is the author, editor, or contributor to at least nine books, including from NewSouth Books Where We Stand: Voices of Southern Dissent; American Crisis, Southern Solutions: From Where We Stand, Promise and Peril; and Looking for the Future: A Meditation on Political Choice. In summer 2016 NewSouth also published a collection of tribute essays, Leslie W. Dunbar: Reflections by Friends, that included a message from Congressman John Lewis among others.

Friends and family remember Leslie Dunbar, including his son, author Tony Dunbar.

American Happiness named award finalist; author Jacqueline Trimble featured in Cave Canem blog post

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

American Happiness by Jacqueline TrimbleAmerican Happiness has been selected as a finalist in the Seven Sisters Book Awards, which recognize talented female authors in seven categories. President Lynn Hinton notes that the awards celebrate the stories of women and the women who write them, and says she is excited about this second year of the awards program.

The award judges, however, aren’t alone in praising Trimble’s “grown-woman poetics,” a phrase we borrow from the outstanding blurb author Honoree Fanonne Jeffers contributed to the book. There are also the insightful comments that came to us from Jennifer Horne, another strong poet/writer. “Trimble’s grace,” she says, “is in the anger distilled to the bitter draft you savor as it bites, in thinking to ask whether Jean-Paul Sartre ever asked Simone de Beauvoir to go to the Winn-Dixie, in the fairy tales she rewrites and the myths of America she questions.” Amen, and may the best woman win.

And in related news, in a blog post on Poetry Foundation’s website, Cave Canem, perhaps our nation’s premier organization dedicated to supporting African American poets, asked its writer members to recall 20 years back, to the days of the founding of the group. Read the article by Tyehimba Jess and discover what Jacqueline Trimble had to say about Alice Walker . . . and the importance of washing dishes.

American Happiness is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Who tells your story? Frye Gaillard talks about the role of historian for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA)

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Go South to Freedom by Frye GaillardIn an interview with SIBA’s Lady Banks’ Commonplace Book newsletter, author Frye Gaillard talks about the craft of historical novelist. Gaillard’s new book for young readers, Go South to Freedom, relates an “as told to” slavery story, shared with him by an elderly neighbor.

The award-winning journalist and prolific author told Lady Banks that journalism always involves “writing somebody else’s story” and requires treating the material with care and respect. He describes the additional research into historical events and the people mentioned in the tale that he did in preparing to write Go South to Freedom. The research helped educate him about the so-called “Black Seminoles” and about the community of free blacks that lived in Mobile, Alabama many years before the Civil War. In the end, as he told Lady Banks, the most important aspect of a true story is to keep it alive.

Go South to Freedom is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

NewSouth Books celebrates seven years of partnership with the Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning at Auburn University

Friday, September 30th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

In the Company of Owls by Peter HugginsNewSouth Books has enjoyed working the Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning in a partnership that has continued for seven years. OLLI is a program for learning in retirement for adults 50 and older. Members can choose from offerings that include academic courses as well as recreational and health activities.

Authors including Rev. Robert Graetz (A White Preacher’s Message on Race and Reconciliation), Warren Trest (Nobody But the People: The Life and Times of Alabama’s Youngest Governor), Rheta Grimsley Johnson (Hank Hung the Moon, Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming, Poor Man’s Provence), Frye Gaillard (Go South to Freedom, Journey to the Wilderness: War, Memory, and a Southern Family’s Civil War Letters, The Books that Mattered: A Reader’s Memoir, Watermelon Wine: The Spirit of Country Music), Kathryn Tucker Wyndham (She: The Old Woman Who Took Over My Life, Spit, Scarey Ann and Sweat Bees: One Thing Leads to Another, Alabama, One Big Front Porch, Jeffrey’s Favorite 13 Ghost Stories), Robert Baldwin (Life and Death Matters: Seeking the Truth About Capital Punishment), and Skip Tucker (Pale Blue Light) have given presentations at OLLI. The speakers unanimously praise the great interest and participation of audiences and the superb hosting of the OLLI staff.

Joining this list of illustrious presenters is Peter Huggins (In the Company of Owls), who will lead a workshop on writing poetry at the OLLI Writers Workshop at Pebble Hill on Thursday, October 13. Huggins is an Alabama State Council on the Arts poetry fellow. Other session leaders for the day include AU Professor Frank Walters on memoir writing; prolific children’s author and poet Charles Ghigna on writing for children; and award-winning short story author Carrie Spell on writing fiction.

Enrollment in the day-long program is limited to 40 participants with a cost of $25 for OLLI members and $50 for non-members; lunch is included.

If you haven’t discovered the pleasures of the OLLI experience, don’t delay in exploring the offerings at the OLLI closest to you.

NewSouth Books titles are available direct from our website or your favorite bookstore.

William Heath wins Western Writers of America Spur Award

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

The Children Bob Moses Led by William HeathWilliam Heath (The Children Bob Moses Led) is the winner of the Spur Award for Best Western Historical Nonfiction for his new book William Wells and and the Struggle for the Old Northwest. The Spur Awards are given by the Western Writers of America. Heath’s is the first biography of William Well, a frontiersman born to Anglo parents and captured and raised by Miami Indians.

Heath has written on a variety of topics, with works of fiction, history, and poetry published. His novel The Children Bob Moses Led was named by Time magazine as one of the eleven best novels of the African American experience in 2002. The novel was recently republished by NewSouth Books.

Congratulations Bill on the Spur Award!

The Children Bob Moses Led is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Faye Gibbons celebrates literary legacy of Sue Pickett

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

The Path was Steep by Suzanne PickettOne NewSouth author pays homage to another in the current issue of Alabama Heritage magazine. Faye Gibbons, author of the young adult novel Halley, penned a beautiful appreciation of Suzanne Pickett, whose memoir The Path Was Steep: A Memoir of Appalachian Coal Camps During the Great Depression was rereleased by NewSouth Books in 2013. Gibbons writes that though Pickett worked as a newspaper writer, “her memoir offers the most endearing insight into her life and the lives of others who survived during the Depression.”

Gibbons is no stranger to hard times herself, having grown up in a large Appalachian farm family and lived in mill towns in Georgia. Her article follows Suzanne Pickett from her birth in a mining family to her marriage to a miner, David Pickett. Struggling to survive the Depression, the family moved to follow jobs, and tried farming. Sue landed a newspaper job for a brief time that helped to supplement income. Even after her husband landed a more secure job, Pickett continued to write, producing plays for local students and short stories. She then went on to write the memoir that Gibbons says “captures the Depression in all its misery and shows how one family was able to endure hardships.” Adds Gibbons, “Even at a time when few women in her circumstances had literary ambitions, Suzanne Pickett was able to use words to create a compelling portrait of a formative time in our history.”

Suzanne Pickett

Suzanne Pickett

Halley and The Path Was Steep are available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

John Pritchard named Mississippi “Legend”

Monday, August 8th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Junior Ray: A Novel, by John PritchardJohn Pritchard, author of the Junior Ray series, was amused to see himself listed as a “legend” among Mississippi authors on the website for the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience, a cultural center set to open in 2017.

He noted, “There are some, in fact, who might insist that I have always been entirely fictitious!”

Pritchard is delighted that this recognition proves him to be an actual, living author, and one placed in the company of Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, and John Grisham, among many other greats. Long live Junior Ray!

The Junior Ray series — Junior Ray, The Yazoo Blues, and Sailing to Alluvium — is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Rod Davis and co-panelists kill it at State of the Book Crime Fiction panel

Friday, August 5th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

South, America by Rod DavisThe panel, “Crime Fiction: The Genre of Dissent, Values and Codes of Conduct,” part of Gemini Ink’s State of the Book conference, was a great success even on a very hot Saturday afternoon in San Antonio. Part of the reason was the location of the retro-Latino hotel, El Tropicano, on the banks of the Riverwalk, and a lot of people in the crowded lobby and bar also attending a Shriner’s convention.

Rod Davis and his co-panelists Christopher Cook, author of Robbers and other crime and literary fiction, and Eusebio Diaz, vice president of the Baptist Health Foundation and an avid reader of classic crime and crime noir, took the audience of about 30 into an exploration of the evolution of crime and crime noir, and also the fundamental issues of right and wrong, crime and sin, and vengeance and justice that mark the country’s second most popular literary genre.

Rod and Christopher also discussed the need to avoid didactic messages and the value of making even the bad characters at least a little “good” to make then memorable characters. Rod, author of the critically-acclaimed crime noir, South, America, and the forthcoming Shoot When You Shoot, Die When You Die, explained how the addition of even small humanizing effects on the bad guys, along with flaws in the good guys, makes the conflict between them more dynamic.

The panel was based on audience interaction, which carried over into lengthy conversations following the presentations. Rod also got to visit with former San Antonio Express-News colleague Gregg Barrios, known for his plays Rancho Pancho and I-DJ and work with actor/poet James Franco. A number of authors from Texas and elsewhere also presented at the 4-day event, with closing remarks from Clay Smith, Editor in Chief of Kirkus Reviews and Literary Director of the San Antonio Book Festival.

South, America is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Attorney Fred Gray at DNC convention reflects on our political history

Thursday, August 4th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System by Fred GrayLegendary civil rights attorney Fred Gray spoke to the Montgomery Advertiser about his experience as a delegate for Hillary Clinton at the recent Democratic National Convention.

Of his experience winning ground-breaking cases against racial discrimination, Attorney Gray said, “It has contributed toward having an African-American president and then a female president, and who knows where the Lord may permit us to go after we elect Mrs. Clinton.”

Fred Gray’s memoir Bus Ride to Justice: Changing the System by the System, the Life and Works of Fred Gray is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Virginian-Pilot features historical novel Forsaken in extended article

Thursday, July 21st, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Forsaken by Ross Howell

The Virginian-Pilot featured the Forsaken book trailer, and links to Forsaken: The Digital Bibliography at the Library of Virginia, in an extensive article covering the genesis, action, and themes of Ross Howell Jr.’s powerful historical novel. Denise M. Watson interviewed Howell, who told about coming across the story of Virginia Christian, a juvenile tried for murder and executed by the state, while researching another criminal case, and later learning of a dissertation on her execution written by Dr. Derryn Moten.

The Virginian-Pilot article examines the facts of the case, and notes how Howell weaves in interconnected material, including the eugenics movement in early 20th-century Virginia. Howell told the Virginian-Pilot, “I have always seen myself as a fiction writer, and I felt that if I could bring this girl to life that it would make the story of her fate much more compelling, and that’s what I set out to do. I hope I did that.”

The Library of Virginia subsequently digitized and indexed many of the historical documents from Howell’s research for an exhibit related to the book.

Forsaken is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.